Lithuanian Judaism

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Lithuanian Judaism, named so due to the Lithuanian background of most of its founders, adherents and leaders, is the non-Hasidic branch of Haredi Judaism. It is often referred to by its Yiddish adjective of Litvish Judaism, and its adherents may be referred to as Litvaks or in Modern Hebrew, Lita'im. Another often-heard term referring to the Lithuanian world is the 'Yeshivishe world', referring to the emphasis on yeshiva-based study. They are also sometimes referred to as Misnagdim, literally meaning "opponents," because of their origin as opponents of Hasidic Judaism.

The major ideologue of Lithuanian Judaism was Rabbi Eliyyahu of Vilnius, widely known as the Vilna Gaon (1720 – 1797). Currently, major Lithuanian leaders include Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashiv in Jerusalem, and Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz in Bnei Brak. Among their predecessors were Rabbi Avrohom Yeshayeh Karelitz, known as the Chazon Ish (1878-1953) and Rabbi Elazar Shach, known as Rav Shach (1898-2001).

In Israel, the city of Bnei Brak is known as the stronghold of Lithuanian Judaism. It was home to both the Chazon Ish and Rav Shach, and is currently also home to several major leaders. Main centers of Lithuanian learning include the Bnei Brak-based Ponevezh yeshiva and the Jerusalem-based Mir and Brisk yeshivot.

In the United States, a main center of Lithuanian Judaism is Lakewood, NJ. Lakewood is home to the Beth Medrash Govoah (lit. "Institute of Higher Learning"), allegedly the world's largest yeshiva, with circa 3000 students.

Most male Lithuanian Haredim wear short coats and fedora style hats, and unmarried young men shave their beards. Lithuanian do not have long peyos (sidelocks). Rabbis may wear longer coats and slightly different hats, and traditional Jerusalem-based Lithuanian Haredim - meaning, those families which were already in Jerusalem long before the Second World War - maintain a style of dress which is more similar to Hasidic dress, including a long coat and a shtreimel (fur hat) on Shabbos and holidays.

External links

  • Yated Ne'eman, English-language online edition of Israeli Lithuanian Haredi newspaper Yated Ne'eman (refreshed on Thursday nights)
  • TheYeshivaWorld.com, English-language Yeshivishe news site focused on the New York area